June 5 is a landmark anniversary, one of great joy and pride mixed with sorrow and grief. On this day 40 years ago, the CDC reported perplexing cases of rare diseases among five healthy gay men in Los Angeles. None of us at the time had an inkling of what was to follow. The first several years of the HIV epidemic were filled with fear and marked by stigma. Hope was hard to find as more and more people succumbed to what was then a death sentence. However, there were glimmers of hope as advocates and communities demanded that government and society listen to those at greatest risk and those that were dying and take action. It may be hard for many to imagine such a time, but for the people who lived through it, those days and the millions who did not survive live on in our memories and the stories we tell.
Today, the world, both in its response to HIV and health more generally, is different and better. Information, testing, treatment, comprehensive programs, and a commitment to ending HIV stigma and inequities have made HIV a chronic but manageable disease, particularly for those who can get services. There is much work still to do, but we have the tools we need, and new ones are on the way.
Since the earliest days, JSI has been there, at first simply by supporting staff living with HIV when denial and disdain were the norm. As opportunities arose, we implemented programs in solidarity with and response to communities in the U.S. and around the world’s needs, tackling inequalities and bringing new science and learning to our every effort. On this anniversary, we recommit to ending HIV around the globe and honoring the passion and memory of those who are no longer with us.